Concord city council approves financial support of golf course, ice arena

  • Beaver Meadow, Concord. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 11/16/2018 6:12:01 PM

City officials have lifted the expectation that the golf course, ice arena and solid waste funds should be self-supporting.

The Concord City Council voted Monday night to reclassify Beaver Meadow Golf Course, the Douglas N. Everett Arena and the city’s solid waste fund from enterprise operations to special revenue funds, putting them in the same category as the city’s airport and parking system.

The change means city administration will review how much money the funds will need and make a proposal to the City Council each budget season, rather than making special transfers outside of the budget process, city spokesperson Stefanie Breton said in an email.

On the surface, the change seems inconsequential – according to a report by deputy city manager of finance Brian LeBrun, “the day to day operations will not notice any procedural or process changes.” Rather, the change defines financial expectations.

Enterprise funds are meant to be self-sustaining through their revenues, whereas special revenue funds “from time to time” may need support from another outside source, “in these cases mainly the General Fund,” according to LeBrun’s report.

The change also caps a discussion on whether the funds should be subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Beaver Meadow struggled in recent years to break even, with expenses outpacing revenues from memberships and rental fees and has required transfers from the general fund to pay for capital expenses.

Earlier this year, the council voted to forgive the golf course’s annual contribution to the general fund plus its financial shortcomings. That amount totaled $124,300, about 11 percent of the course’s budget.

The solid waste fund has also required support in recent years, according to city budget data. Transfers from the general fund have clocked in from $990,000 in 2016 and 2017 and $1 million in 2018. City administrators anticipate it will need similar support in the future.

The arena has managed to stay mostly solvent in recent years, with expenses outpacing revenue in 2014 and 2016 and projected to do so in 2019, according to city data.

Ward 2 Councilor Allan Herschlag advocated for a public meeting on the change after LeBrun’s report appeared as a consent item on Monday’s agenda. 

“Having committee meetings and passing those recommendations onto the city council and placing it on the consent agenda is not my idea of providing the public with the opportunity to share their thoughts with us,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

But some city councilors seemed to think the conversation has been heading this way for quite some time. 

“You can’t expect user fees to be able pay for those capital items,” said Councilor Daniel St. Hilaire, who sits on the Everett Arena Advisory Committee, in reference to the arena’s parking lot and geriatric chiller. “I’ve been mentioning that for over a decade. ...We constantly talk about the need for capital improvements into some of these city assets.”

St. Hilaire noted councilors and city administration, as well as some members of the public, have characterized the arena and the golf course as city assets that need to be protected in public meetings. He said public discussions on whether taxpayer money should be used for capital expenses will occur during budget meetings. 

He concluded: “This basically is a name change in my view.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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